Roxbury History

Fort Hill (Highland Park), Roxbury, Boston, Massachusetts.
Tower built by the Cochichuate Water Company in 1869, the tower became obsolete when the water system was modified and a new tower was built on a nearby hill.

This guide is designed to help you research information about the history of Roxbury, Massachusetts. It includes an index of scholarly sources that should be used. Included in the list are books that will be helpful in your research, as well as online resources, including databases containing Roxbury-related articles. In addition, you will find a list of local institutions dedicated to preserving the history of Massachusetts cities and towns, in which many Roxbury-related documents can be found.

If you have any trouble finding these sources, please ask a librarian for help. Good luck! Any comments or suggestions are welcome!
  • RCC Library Home Page: Most materials found in this research guide are available at the library's home page.
  • Reference Desk : Please contact us if you have any questions concerning this guide or research.



The on-line catalog provides access to the Library's collection of approximately 40,000 books, periodicals and audio-visual titles. These resources may be used to find information for assignments or general interest.

Tutorial for searching catalog and ordering books from Metro Boston Library Network (includes Boston Public Library)

Good Search Terms to use: words or phrase

  • "Roxbury, Massachusetts" ( To broaden your search, use "Boston, Massachusetts" or "Boston, Massachusetts" and "Roxbury." To narrow your search, include the Roxbury neighborhood, example: "Dudley Square, Roxbury").
  • "Roxbury history" (To narrow your search, include an aspect of Roxbury history in your search, example: "Roxbury history" and "African Americans").

Circulating Books

Shand-Tucci, Douglass. Built in Boston: City and suburb. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999. Print.
Call Number: NA735.B7 S53 1999

Cottle, Thomas J. Black Children, White Dreams. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974. Print.
Call Number: F74.R9 C67 1974

Newman, William A. and Wilfred E. Holton. Boston's Back Bay: The story of America's greatest nineteenth-century landfill project. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2006. Print.
Call Number: TD795.7.N545 2006

Pierce, Dick. Roxbury: A brief history of its people, places, and things. Roxbury: Roxbury Heritage Foundation, 2005. Print.
Call Number: F74.R9 R53 2005x

Electronic Books


The library has recently added 20,000 online books from the vendor Ebrary. This is the “community college” collection, of interest to students and faculty at 2-year colleges. All books are simultaneously available to all RCC users.

Community health centers: a movement and the people who made it happen.
Lefkowitz, Bonnie. Community Health Centers: A Movement and the people who made it happen. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2007. Web.
Chapter 3 highlights the Roxbury Comprehensive Community Health Center, founded in 1971.

Sustainable communities and the challenge of environmental justice.
Agyeman, Julian. Sustainable Communities and the Challenges of Environmental Justice. New York: New York University Press, 2005. Web.

Roxbury's Alternatives for Community and Environment, created in the 1990s, is featured in Chapter 5, and mentioned throughout the book.

Mary P. Follett: creating democracy, transforming management.
Tonn, Joan C. Mary P. Follett: Creating democracy, transforming management. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003. Web.
Mary Follett began her social and civic work at a settlement house in Roxbury. This book provides a look at Roxbury in the 1870s-90s.

An interracial movement of the poor: community organizing and the New Left in the 1960s.
Frost, Jennifer. An Interracial Movement of the Poor: Community organizing and the New Left in the 1960s. New York: New York University Press, 2001. Web.
Chapter 3 explores Roxbury.

Freedom north: Black freedom struggles outside the South, 1940-1980.
Theoharis, Jeanne and Komozi Woodard, eds. Freedom North: Black freedom struggles outside the South, 1940-1980. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. Web.

Chapter 5, entitled, "I'd Rather Go to School in the South," How Boston's School Desegregation Complicates the Civil Rights Paridigm, concentrates on a number of students from Roxbury in the 1960s.

Reference Books and Library Archives

The reference books below are available at other BPL branches and are for in-Library use only. For in-Library use of books in the Archives, please ask a Librarian for assistance.

Reference Books

MBTA and Southwest Corridor Project:

Bower, Beth-Anne. The Elmwood Street pumping station site (SWC-33), Roxbury, Massachusetts: report on the phase III archaelogical data recovery. Boston: Museum of Afro-American History, 1986. Print.

Bower, Beth-Anne. The Guild and White Company tannery site Roxbury, Massachusetts: report on the phase III archaelogical data recovery. Boston: Museum of Afro-American History, 1987. Print.

Bower, Beth-Anne. The Highland Foundry site, Roxbury, Massachusetts. Boston: Museum of Afro-American History, 1988. Print.

Bower, Beth-Anne. The Metropolitan Railroad Company site (SWC-1a-22), Roxbury, Massachusetts: report on the phase III archaelogical data recovery. Boston: Museum of Afro-American History, 1986. Print.

Bower, Beth-Anne. Pierpont Homestead, Roxbury, Massachusetts. Boston: Museum of Afro-American History, 1987. Print.

Bower, Beth-Anne. Report on the phase II archaelogical subsurface testing of the southwest corridor project, Roxbury, Massachusetts. Boston: Museum of Afro-American History, 1984. Print.

Bower, Beth-Anne. The stone jail site (SWC-31), Roxbury, Massachusetts: report on the phase II archaelogical subsurface testing of the southwest corridor project, Roxbury, Massachusetts. Boston: Museum of Afro-American History, 1986. Print.

Library Archives

Alicea, Jose Antonio. Leadership and struggle: the Roxbury Community College Presidency.
LD6501.R68219 A45 1996

Thompson, William B.D., Jr. A people's school: conflicts in planning the development of Roxbury Community College.
LD6501.R68219 T66 1984

The Town of Roxbury
Drake, Francis S. The Two of Roxbury: Its memorable persons and places, its history and antiquities, with numerous illustrations of its old landmarks and noted personages. Roxbury: The Author, 1878.
F74.R9 D7 1878x

Focal point Roxbury : a community's struggle : a 40 year retrospective of pivotal events in the history of Roxbury, Massachusetts, 1967-2007 / an oral history project of Roxbury Action Program and the Fellowes Fund of the Boston Public Library. Hicks, Marjorie.
F74.R9 F63 2010

Audiovisual Resources

Mission Hill and the miracle of Boston. produced by Richard Broadman et al.
F73 .M5

Grand opening of its biotechnology lab. lecture by Susan Windham-Bannister.
(Reserve) QD51.W56 2010


Browse newspapers on the second floor of the Library for articles about Roxbury and the Boston area.
  • Boston Bay State Banner
  • Boston Globe
  • Boston Herald

Browse former and current issues of the Gateway Gazette, the official RCC-student-produced newspaper, online at the RCC Archives and Special Collections.


Access to millions of journal, magazine, newspaper and reference source articles through our research databases.

Boston Bay State Banner

The Boston Bay State Banner is an independent newspaper primarily geared toward the readership interests of the African-American community in Boston, Massachusetts; find hundreds of current articles about Roxbury and its neighborhoods.

Massachusetts Newstand

Provides full-text coverage (date coverage varies for each paper, but mainly from the 1990s and on) of major Massachusetts newspapers including the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Quincy Patriot Ledger and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, plus selected coverage of other regional sources; includes over 74 full-text articles mentioning "Roxbury, Massachusetts."

Massachusetts History Online

Provides full-text articles gathered from almost 50 sources that directly relate to MA history; includes over 20 articles mentioning "Boston, Massachusetts" and "Roxbury."

Online Resources

There are many good state and local history web sites on the internet. These web sites have been evaluated by library staff. Remember to always evaluate internet resources. To find out more about evaluating web sites, Cornell University has a very good guide.


  • Boston Redevelopment AuthorityA government agency, the BRA oversees all land zoning, development, and construction of Boston's 19 neighborhoods, Roxbury among them. Included on the Roxbury neighborhood page, is a neighborhood history, publications about development projects, population statistics/surveys, links to community organizations, and maps.
  • Discover Roxbury "Promoting the economic development of Roxbury through sustainable cultural tourism that highlights the neighborhood's rich history, arts, and its contributions to the world" (adapted from Discover Roxbury homepage), this dynamic organization offers walking tours of Roxbury, a city history, biographies of notable residents, and multi-perspective histories of Roxbury, including personal accounts from current/former residents in text and video form, as well as photographs and postcards of Roxbury's people and places.
  • Dorchester Atheneum Formerly a subscription library, the Atheneum is currently a web site for the "promotion of Dorchester's wonderful features: its people, its architecture, its businesses, its institutions" (Atheneum homepage). Find detailed information and biographies of notable Dorchester residents (incuding social activists), a town history, including a book list, industry/commerce history, and digital photographs and postcards of Dorchester.
  • Roxbury Crossing Historical Trust An organization dedicated to "collect, preserve and promote the cultural, genealogical and diverse history of the Greater Roxbury Massachusetts area and its residents. RCHT is engaged in activities to collect, preserve, and promote the cultural, genealogical, and historical photographs, prints, maps, documents, audio, video, film and digital media, oral and authentic history of Roxbury Massachusetts," the RCHT site includes an informative history of Roxbury, as well as a mulit-media video showcasing the many neighborhoods and impressions of Roxbury. To view the Roxbury database and Roxbury history resource guide, please contact the RCHT directly.

Explore the history of Roxbury first-hand! Visit Roxbury/Boston-based libraries, government archives, and historical societies.

  • City of Boston, Archives and Records Just a bus ride away from RCC, on Rivermoore St. in West Roxbury, the Archives and Records Department retains government records relating to Roxbury, including census and land records. "The City Archives is a public trust, which plays a key role in fostering effective and responsible government through management of the lifecycle of records and through sustained access to historically valuable municipal records. These records enable people to inspect what Boston municipal government has done, allow officials and agencies to review their actions, and help citizens hold government accountable. These records are rich and varied sources of information used to answer questions about the past of the City, the nation and society" (Department Mission Statement).
  • Dorchester Historical Society Just a quick T or bus ride from RCC, on Boston St., the Society resides over historical Dorchester homes that are open to guest visits, as well as hosting many educational events about the history of Dorchester and its people. "The purpose of the Dorchester Historical Society, founded in 1843 and incorporated in 1891, is to collect, preserve, and disseminate knowledge of the history of that section of the City of Boston which was formerly the Town of Dorchester; to hold, and aid in the preservation of, historic buildings and sites in the area; to care for, and from time to time, exhibit such articles of historic or antiquarian interest as may come into its possession" (Society "About Us" page).
  • Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) Just a quick T or bus ride from RCC, on the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Boylston St., the MHS contains a wealth of original, historical documents relating to the history of Massachusetts, including the City of Boston and Roxbury. "The Massachusetts Historical Society is an independent research library that collects, preserves, makes accessible, and communicates manuscripts and other materials in order to promote the study of the history of Massachusetts and the nation-a mission it has pursued since 1791" (MHS mission statement). Use the MHS's online catalog, ABIGAIL to find over 500 documents about Roxbury, including organizational records, letters, maps, and photographs.
  • Northeastern University Library, Archives and Special Collections Just a quick walk or T ride from RCC to Ruggles Station, the NU Library boasts many original records related to the people, places, and businesses of Roxbury. Within the Archives and Special Collections Department, are the Boston History Collections, featuring records of Roxbury-based community organizations and the peoples they served.

Citing Sources: Style Guides

APA Style Tutorial

Laguardia Community College Library MLA and APA citation style

The Owl at Purdue: APA Formatting and Style Guide

The Owl at Purdue: MLA 2009 Formatting and Style Guide

Basic Research Help

Please click the Ask a Librarian icon if you have any questions concerning these guides, need help finding material for your research or any general questions you might have.


General Library Information

Research guide prepared on 9/02/2009 by Gena Pliakas
Updated 5/6/14 by Joy Singletary.